4. What Is to Come
Legolas was hearing a great argument. The stupor of sleep was slow to fade from his agonized mind, and at first he made no sense of it. It seemed vaguely strange to him that he did not particularly care about his ignorance, as though responsibility was being shunned for the sake of the self. The black that surrounded him was too comforting, for here there was neither pain nor fear, and the Orcs could not hurt him. The soundless, shapeless void held his mind captive in a perpetual state of apathy, for he was simply too tired and too hurt to concern himself with matters beyond this embrace of unawareness.
Then the trees sang a soft but frantic lyric to him composed of the cold night air urgently whistling through leaves, and he lingered no longer. Memory then returned, tugging terror and panic with it to chase away the remnants of a soothing unconsciousness, and his eyes snapped open.
He blinked a few times, for the scene before him was tipped sideways and horridly unfocussed. While the world spun, his senses slammed into his mind with their own tale. He was cold and damp and so very thirsty. He felt horrible pain. All his hurts abruptly stabbed into him with a new vengeance that nearly stole consciousness from him once more. He closed his eyes and winced, struggling simply to breathe against the great waves of agony shooting through him. Moments stretched to an eternity before he felt it had dulled enough for him to chance opening his eyes again without becoming sick. After drawing cool breath after breath to soothe him, he decided to confront the world around him.
He was laying face down on the forest floor, blunted twigs and stones poking uncomfortably into the soft flesh of his bare belly, leaves matted into his hair and sticking to his flesh. His hands were once again tied behind him, and though the strength evaded him to attempt to pull at the ropes, he knew the knots were impossibly tight. His ankles were of much the same fate. Even if he could somehow free himself, he knew his feet would prove useless as they were numb and aching from the bindings. The air had grown cold with night, and without his tunic the chill invaded his hapless form with ease. Anew he suffered the many bruises and cuts that covered him, results of the beating before. His shoulder burned in fiery agony, and the position of his arms only further aggravated the vicious injury. Every breath sent searing pain lacing down his chest, and he fought to turn over to relieve the stress upon his wounded ribs. Intense hurt was the only reward for his squirming movements, but he managed only to tip himself onto his side. It was enough for him to curl tighter, drawing his knees up to his chest to conserve whatever meager heat his body still radiated.
There was a low grumbling. He then cursed himself viciously, realizing the folly of his action. Two Orcs stood guarding him, one on either side and a bit ahead, their oppressive stench of foul things, sweat, and blood twisting his already upset stomach. Fear pulsed through him in debilitating waves and he squeezed his eyes shut. All he could not to shiver was bite hard into his tongue and stiffen every limb. His heart was booming in anticipation that they would begin their torment of him anew, for surely they had noticed his wakening!
What he dreaded came not, and he risked peeking through lowered eyelids. They had not turned to him, both still watching a scene ahead that was hidden to him. The soldiers were tense, shedding their anxiety in great waves that served to worry the Elfs heart. Clearly they were unnerved, and the trees sang now of contention and conflict. When the vicious words of the distant argument again assailed his ears, he took pains this time to concentrate upon them. Something was amiss in the army camp. Though his hearing was keen, a distracting racket of the army served to hide anything to answer the panicked questions swirling about his racing mind, the mesh of snorts, screams, and grunts masking conversations, and his command of Dark Speech was not sufficient enough to weed through all the words he heard. But as the argument grew closer with approaching footsteps, not only did its content become frighteningly clear, he recognized one voice.
Boromirs tone was filled with cold fury as he stepped closer. No where to be found, he said, slightly winded. Legolas cringed inwardly at the evil he heard in the others tone. It must be here! Did you search everywhere? he demanded hotly.
The two Orcs guarding him humbly stepped aside, as though in reverence or fear. There was a deep, guttural snarl. Everywhere. There is no Ring. He knew the inhuman voice from before: the massive Orc that had led him to Boromir after he had been captured. This demon was clearly their leader and the commander of this vile army.
Boromir shouted, clearly frustrated beyond all control, It must be here, if the Elf does not possess it! His eyes narrowed dangerously, threateningly as he stepped closer to the Orc. They were nearly of equal stature, though the monster was broad about the chest under blackened armor. If you lie, I will personally see to your death. I will not tolerate failure!
The Orcs snub-nosed face was taut in a growl, and his huge, dirty mane of black locks wavered as he howled in fury. Then he ripped about. Faster than Legolas could prevent, even if he was able enough to try, the beast reached down and hauled him up, his massive claws wrapped sadistically about the Elfs pale, white neck.
A yelp fled Legolas mouth as he was yanked from the ground. His body screamed in agonizing protest as he was slammed into the massive trunk of a tree. The world fell in and out of focus as he choked, the Orcs grip upon his throat like iron, squeezing vulnerable flesh. Sharp nails drew hot blood.
The beast lifted the young prince from his feet, scraping his back and hands against the rough bark. He leaned close to Legolas pained face, sneering in obvious glee at the grimace. Where is the Ring, little Elf? he slurred. Legolas lungs burned, and he instinctively squirmed weakly. Everything was ablaze as air faded. Blackness encroached upon his vision, devouring the periphery, but not enough to hide the glint of the twisted and wicked knife in the moonlight as it flashed. A breath later it came to rest upon his quivering and dirty cheek.
What could only be described as lust danced merrily and violently in the Orcs beady gaze. Answer! he shouted. The sharp edge of the blade traced down his flesh slowly, as if in a sadistic caress, drawing beads of bright blood. So dazed from strangulation, Legolas did not notice the sting. In spite of himself, he shook in great terror. If you do not, you will only live long enough to see your blood cover this forest of yours! Even if Legolas had wanted to answer, he could neither get breath in his lungs nor strength in his lips to form the words. He buried the truth where the pain could not reach it and embraced unconsciousness whole-heartedly. The Orc squeezed him tighter, and he faded away.
Then he hit the ground. No air was left in him to cry out in pain, the force jostling his battered body angrily. He lay there in a heap, gasping, each breath shuddering in and out of him. Before he could recover, a boot slammed into his stomach, forcing all the air he had selfishly sought again out of his body. Weakly, he curled into a ball, trying to protect his vulnerable abdomen.
No more blows followed though, and Legolas choked, gasping through clenched teeth. He squeezed his eyes shut against hot tears.
Boromir spoke again. He will not divulge what he has done with the Ring. The mans words were blunt and frustrated. Nothing that we can do to him will force him. You cannot break the will of an Elf with simple discomforts.
Silence. Then a cry of absolute anger, and the Orc turned to the hapless Legolas again. A meaty claw wrapped into the Elfs long blonde locks and yanked his body upward again. Despair slammed into him as he realized what was about to occur. The young prince saw the peaceful moon above for the briefest second. It was sad but strong, and he drew the will to chase away his shaking rage and sorrow, trading them for tranquility of acceptance. To die here, at least, meant they would never find Sam. Then the murderous Orc filled his blurred vision. He is of no use to us then, the demon declared gleefully, raising the knife to strike.
Boromir jerked forward and caught the descending fist. Rage clear in his tense frame, the son of Gondor shoved the Orc back. The beast howled again and stumbled, releasing the Elf. Legolas crumpled to the ground. Though pain, terror and surprise shook him, he scrambled to pull himself up and back, drawing his knees once more to his chest protectively.
The giant Orc snarled spitefully at Boromir, gripping his knife so tightly that muscles of his arm bulged like rocks. He stepped closer to the man, his stride tall, proud, and ominous. You will not interfere,human, he sneered quietly. Venom dripped from the rasping words. The Elf is our catch. We will use him as we please.
Boromir stood unyielding. A cool breeze swept by, screaming through the trees, and it brushed aside the warriors sandy hair. His eyes shone in the moonlight. A strange storm of emotion warped them, a tempest of sorts that made Legolas fear the suffocation might have truly damaged his mind. A blinding madness and rage screamed a foul danger and a greater strength borne from absolute corruption. Yet there still lived something else, a tiny speck of good that seemed utterly misplaced as it struggled to survive in the sea of turmoil. It glowed like a firefly, a small reminder of the man Boromir had once been, of the companion and fighter Legolas had once respected and trusted. Could it be that the son of Gondor was breaking from the foul seduction of the One Ring? Could he dare have such a hope? His heart nearly quaked with the idea.
The Elf is not yours to kill, Boromir stated simply. His words held an unspoken threat. He belongs now to Saruman, as you do. If you betray your master, you have betrayed your making. I will see you dead before you soil his creation.
The Orc screamed and drew his long, hooked weapon, but his army did not answer. Legolas watched astonished. The monster stepped to Boromir. You presume much! he shouted.
You not enough, Boromir responded, for to slay the Elf now destroys the last connection with the Ring. Finding it is more important than your sport! The Orc growled and swung his blade down. There was a metallic ring, and Legolas looked back to the son of Gondor. Boromir unsheathed his long, elegant sword. The silver blade shimmered in the light softly, its edges screaming a tale of past blood and future murder. This he leveled at the other. Stand down, he ordered slowly, vehemently, or I will kill you.
They stood still then, two combatants of tremendous power and intimidation, preparing to fight for the ownership of the Elf. Legolas stared numbly in confusion, but the slow pain of understanding filled him, and this he could not deny for all the wish of his heart. The Orcs would see him beaten and mutilated, but dead at least, so he might carry his burning secret into the shadow. If Boromir won this battle, though, he knew that luxury would not be afforded him. He would be taken to Isengard and made to kneel before Saruman. He shuddered. He could not allow that to happen!
Yet he was stilled by his own weakness and compassion. His heart boomed in rage that he move now to free himself, when his captors were engrossed in the tense scene before them. But Legolas simply could not. It was a bitter irony if any had ever slapped him.
He did not want to see Boromir die.
The Orc howled and fell into an aggressive fighting stance. You will pay for your insolence! he cried as he charged. Massive feet thundered forward in a spray of leaves and dirt. Boromir did not retreat but stood tall, bearing his own blade to strike.
The swords cracked together with a shower of sparks and a screech of metal. They grinded at each other, but neither the Orc nor Boromir lost ground in the test of strength. The beasts face was ferocious and horrible, sneering hatefully. Boromir was achingly cold and hard, his eyes alive with power. Then they split, and the monster gave a roar. The other Orcs watched in stupefaction in the camp, as if they waited for the battles termination to side with whoever was the victor. Such foul creatures!
Blades sliced through the air as they fought, narrowly missing cutting flesh and severing limbs. Boromir moved with silent grace, the lines of his strong body flawlessly flowing with his weapon, as he feigned and countered the massive swings of his nemesis. The Orcs own attacks lacked elegance but held great strength. They drove huge holes into the soil when they failed to meet their mark and in stead struck the ground. As the fight progressed in a blur of blocks and attacks that would have left normal eyes daft, Legolas found himself marveling at Boromirs speed and strength. The son of Gondor before had been an able swordsman, his reflexes quick and his swing mighty. However, something greater had twisted Boromirs stances, creating a cold killer from once a noble protector. He had hardly broken a sweat or drawn a gasping breath, and the Elf found this disconcerting. The Orc had been a formidable opponent, yet now he was scarcely a threat, and his fierce attacks were sloppy and arrogant. Boromir batted them away with ease. Never before had such skill graced him! Was this a gift of the Ring?
The Orc, for his own part, stumbled. If he as well was unnerved by this, it did not show on his cracked and disfigured face. In rage he screamed to the sky, and lunged at Boromir, the vicious blade raised to strike. The son of Gondor smirked and whirled, deflecting the blow. His sword screamed upward and with a spray of foul, brackish blood, he sliced the Orcs arm clean from its body. The useless limb fell limply to the ground.
With a demonic screech, the Orc rounded on him, showing neither pain nor fear. But it was for naught, for Boromir tightened the grip upon the hilt of his blade and swung high. Legolas winced. The sharp edge met little resistance as it cut through the thick neck, and the severed head tumbled to the forest floor. The decapitated body crumpled downward a moment after.
Everything stayed still a moment. The forest was still and eerie. Then Boromir, breathing quietly and clearly not perturbed, leaned down and wiped the black blood from his sword upon the headless corpse. He then glanced threateningly about him. The rest of the army watched, astounded and frightened. Hear this! he hollered to the troops, glaring at the monsters. Quite a few shrank back in fear. I now command this army! Cross me not, for I smite you as easily as I did your leader! The Orcs shrieked a moment, and then grunted and shouted their submission. Legolas watched the spectacle with apprehensive eyes.
The son of Gondor leveled his blade at one the Orcs stationed near the Elf. Make preparations for departure. We continue west. The beast narrowed his gaze and then grunted in affirmation. He hurried off, shouting in Dark Speech to companions. Their retreating forms faded into the shadows.
Boromir returned his sword to his sheath. There he stood, proudly gazing upon the Orcs as they quickly readied themselves. Do not thank me, Elf, he said after a moment. What awaits you now will be far worse than the abuse of Orcs.
Legolas glared, finally struggling to his knees, whatever sense of companionship he had previously felt for the man fading in the rush of his angry heart. You are a fool, Boromir, he said quietly, his tone seething, to think that I will falter. Saruman does not frighten me any more than you do.
Rage flashed across the mans face, and he ripped around. The cold leather of his gloved hand slapped across Legolas cheek, sending the young prince roughly to the ground. Pain flowered from his injured shoulder and bruised ribs, and all he could do to stifle a scream was bite hard upon his tongue.
A weight fell upon his chest. When the hurt faded enough to concentrate once more, he found Boromirs boot planted upon him, crushing him into the ground. Why do you struggle, Legolas? The Fellowship has broken! There is no sense in prolonging your defeat!
The Elf gasped. Only his anger gave him vigor. As long as you do not hold the Ring, then the Fellowship is strong. I made a vow upon my honor to protect Frodo and the Ring! I will not betray the others as you have! Boromir growled and shifted his weight from his other leg, placing it upon Legolas body. The young prince cried out as his hands were crushed, his chest burning in agony. He thought he felt his ribs bend. Still, he did not look away. He would not! Free yourself, Boromir! The evil that has seduced you will not avail you! He could say no more, though, before the air rushed uselessly from his form.
Boromirs face was apathetic as he watched Legolas struggle feebly. After a few long minutes, he let up, and the Elf sucked in heaving breaths, coughing, fighting to turn to his side and protect his body. You have stolen something very dear to me, Legolas.
The Elf groaned, It was never yours.
Boromir laughed. Such an assumption! The line of Kings holds claim to that Ring. I only ask that it be returned to those that deserve it! An insane note crawled into his tone. This is what you have denied me!
Legolas narrowed his eyes. You flatter yourself, Boromir. You ask for a title you do not deserve, for it belongs only to Aragorn! he shouted.
The cruel hand cuffed him again. Boromir declared furiously, Aragorn be damned! He is a weakling! Your friendship with him blinds you, Legolas!
As your greed does you.
The son of Gondor snapped in fiery ire and raised his hand to strike the Elf once more. This time, though, he hesitated, his face screwed tight with conflicting emotions. Legolas swallowed blood in his mouth as he regarded the other, confusion dissipating for the faintest of hope. Could the evil veil be lifting? Let it go he implored softly, holding Boromirs gaze despite the blackness threatening upon his own, praying to find familiarity in its fathomless depths. Let it go and return to yourself, son of Gondor!
Then blackness snapped back, and he was once again shoved to the ground, white filling his vision with the pain of the slap. He lay there then, fighting against the aches of his body, struggling to ward away the inviting blackness.
Such a loyal Elf, Boromir sneered, looming over his captive. His voice held such loathing, such bitterness. Tell me, Prince of Mirkwood, how can you yet feel such a thing for me?
Legolas heart clenched inside. Had he somehow seen that as well? I feel nothing but contempt for you, Boromir. You have betrayed us all! he declared, forcing bravado into his voice.
The man chuckled. Lying does not become you, Legolas. You faltered before. During that skirmish, all eyes were turned. No greater opportunity for escape could have presented itself. Yet you chose to remain. Cold fear clenched the Elf, and he averted his eyes. How could he be so bare, so obvious? Boromir looked down upon the fearful Elf. Though his prisoners body was taut with anger, the uncomfortable fear bloomed in his blue eyes. The sight fed Boromirs malevolence even further. You are weak, Legolas, to think the bond we had in the past would be strong enough to quench my desires. He smiled smugly. It only betrays your fear. Legolas did not answer, panicked that his captor had detected his wavering resolve. I pity you, son of Thranduil, for you are but a child.
Sudden indignant anger boiled in Legolas blood at the hurtful insult. I am no more a child, he hissed spitefully, than you are a king! He knew what would come for such a retort, but he did not regret the words.
The counter was swift and rancorous. With a howl of absolute fury, Boromir kicked the Elf directly into his already bruised ribs. Legolas felt the bones break with an icy pain that shot through his body, and he screamed. Boromir spat upon him, though he lay in a winded daze of intense agony. Saruman shall make short work of you, Legolas Greenleaf. Your clever words then will not protect you!
Legolas could hardly hear over the shrill ringing that had invaded his mind, but the words still sliced into his heart. Boromir stood. We move! The Elf shall not be carried! He walks every step! Beat him if he should slow! The Orcs shouted in gleeful anticipation. Gag him as well, for cowards do not deserve to speak, the man hissed, glaring upon the helpless Elf at his feet as though Legolas sharp comments had marred him. To Isengard!
A great, euphoric roar went through the army. Legolas felt the first of his hopes wither.
Time passed slowly for the lone captive of Sarumans army. Minutes stretched to hours and then hours changed into long days, and each step became more of a struggle than the last. The terrain was rough and unfamiliar. Keeping the unnatural pace of the troops took all his strength, and his body was wrought with exhaustion. Had he not been hindered by both his bound arms and his injuries, the strange ground would have made little difference. As it was, though, his steps wavered with uncertainty often, and this was only met with a vicious strike to his head or his back. The Orcs were not kind to his situation, and they reveled in watching a hobbled Elf stumble.
When they blissfully let him be, he could let his mind wander from the pain of his body and his heart. Though his strife was always near him, he could ignore him with thoughts of better times. He tried not to dwell much upon his friends, for with their memory came worry. He prayed they were well. Aragorn, he knew, would protect them. Still, he found little consolation among the incessant concerns within him. Often times he imagined Mirkwood, and it brought him solace. The grand tree in the middle of one alcove stood strong in his minds eye, at times the imagining so vivid he thought he could smell its soft, leafy scent, feel its old bark beneath his fingertips and the embrace of its leaves as he rested aloft in its branches. He had loved that tree since his childhood. Its spirit had been a constant companion, a friend that never wavered. Many times he had returned to the grove to visit it and sing with it, it as ageless as he. Never would he part with its soul. It was one of the many things that tied him so tightly to Middle Earth.
Oh, how he longed to sing! To lift his voice to sky and let his spirit escape the black mud sucking him down! But he dared not, for the song of the Elves was a torturous sound for the Orcs, and they would surely punish him for it. Instead he thought the lyrics, imagined the clear melodies, and wished for salvation. At least this was enough to distract him from the growing shadow upon his heart. With each step, he was dragged closer to Isengard. With each breath, he was inevitably counting away his freedom.
The days shed meaning as he lost track of them, and his yearnings for his home grew painful. He had not parted with his father on the best of terms. Of late, Thranduils Elvish narcissism had grown unbearable. His father was a good king and a fair ruler, but he was too aged and too easily swayed by drink. Times were changing upon Middle Earth, and no longer could the Elves of Mirkwood hide behind ancient prejudices and arrogance. Contemporary mindsets were regarded as sinful as heresy in the House of Thranduil, which did not bode well with its youngest son. Legolas had inherited his mothers patience, as well as her wisdom regarding the lesser races. Where his older brothers embraced their fathers perspectives, he wanted to understand Dwarves and Men. In his eyes, all creatures of Middle Earth from Elf to ant were equal and splendid in their diversity. His mother, at least, had been supportive of this until her death at the hands of Orc raiders centuries prior. The first divisions between Legolas and his brothers and father had been laid, and it only festered with unspoken aggravations and unresolved tensions for hundreds of years as the youngest son of Thranduil came into adulthood. But it was his steadfast friendship with Aragorn had served to finally drive the last brick into the wall between father and son. Arwen had sympathized with him. She too had come to value the companionship of men in a way that was considered unbecoming and impudent by Elvish kind. The estrangement between himself and his family had blossomed into a stronger connection with her. Now he longed for her simple words of advice and clear laughter. Her sisterly affection had often eased his troubled soul.
He ached with worry for Aragorn. How Arwen would suffer if her love was lost! After the fateful council meeting, he had only been able to share but a few words with the eldest daughter of Elrond. She was steadfast in her support of Aragorns decision to aid the Fellowship, yet he could see the distress in her eyes. Legolas had volunteered to help destroy the Ring out of duty to Middle Earth, to his race, to his family, and to himself. Yet then his decision adopted another, special purpose, and he promised her that he would let no harm come to Aragorn. The relief in her clear, blue eyes had been gratitude enough. He cursed himself angrily now. Little good he would do his dear friend as such. Would this too become another vow he would break? Another weakness?
When a cold rain came, his spirits tumbled. His bones ached, and his hurts, although they were healing, cried anew. For days, it rained, drenching the land in an icy sundering. He trudged with his head bowed, decimated. He missed his father and feared the angry words they had shared before he had left Mirkwood for Rivendell bearing the fated message would be the last. His love for Arwen ached in his depressed heart, and he loathed the pain his failure would cause her. He feared that Aragorn would fall, shattering a promise made long ago in play that they would never abandon the other in peril. Horrible images of the Fellowships demise stampeded through his distraught mind, of Gimli murdered, of Merry and Pippin slaughtered in a pool of blood and Frodo taken by the evil of the Ring and poor Sam! Such a coward had he been to leave the small, terrified creature alone to carry the horrible burden of the Ring! Until then, he had not doubted that Sam would find his way back to the others and restore the Ring to Frodo. But what if he had not? It had been folly to think that a creature as small as a Hobbit could navigate unfamiliar terrain and track the Fellowship while avoiding legions of bloodthirsty Orcs! Certainly he had sent Sam to his death!
He tried to convince himself that these were only nightmares borne from pain, exhaustion, and delirium, but logic seemed a feeble force compared to their potency.
The Orcs came for their entertainment when the army did halt for a brief repose, denying Legolas the rest he so sorely needed. Their beatings left him gasping and bruised, though he refused to satisfy their cruel hunger with screams. A few days after leaving Amon Hen, they grew frustrated with their prisoners resilience. A shaman of sorts concocted a vile potion of weeds and herbs, and by holding the Elfs nose shut and pulling open his jaw, they forced him to drink it. What ensued then was a horrible torture to his mind and his body. His vision blurred and filled with apparitions and hallucinations that tormented and frightened him. The meager meals of bread and water they had given him he vomited, sick with nausea and fever. So strong was the toxin that even when his stomach was empty he still shook in great, dry heaves that strained his broken ribs and pained lungs. This went on for days, the Orcs taking great joy in seeing an Elf of high stature so utterly ill. He shook in chills and burned in fever, yet they would not let him rest, content to pollute his body with their heinous torments and poison his mind with demonic dreams.
Yet this they ceased at Boromirs will, for the man had grown concerned at the Elfs pallor and lifeless eyes. The man had ignored his captive for the most part during the journey, paying little attention when the trussed and gagged young prince was brutalized. His interest now seemed purely selfish. Had Legolas been of his senses, he would have fumed at the humiliation. As it was he only gratefully took the few hours of sleep afforded him and the water offered to his dehydrated body. He wondered if he would ever now escape the nausea constantly constricting his throat.
They were moving again not long after, departing the dense woods and entering the plains. Legolas recognized the path now and grew crestfallen. He banished his agitation, though, for he knew he would need all his strength to face what lay ahead. Each step was agony. One foot in front of the other. He was so tired, but he could not let his guard down now. Thoughts of escape desperately filtered through his mind, but he dismissed them before they could rouse his hopes. It would only be futile; so weak from the sickness and his wounds old and new, he would not get far if he could somehow free himself. Attempting it would be folly. His resolution faltered. As much as he now hated it, he had to accept this fate. He had no choice.
Still, when he spotted the black tower of Isengard climbing into the endless gray skies, it took all his will not to turn and run. A great stench filled his nostrils, and the nausea rose again to dizzying levels. Trees burning. His heart felt scraped raw in pain for their loss and anger. The sight before him caused his soul to quake in fury and horror. The once massive forests of Isengard were gone, wasted, reduced to a blackened land of hard stone and reeking smoke. He wanted to scream. Only a scarce few times prior had he ever visited the land of the Istari, where the wisest of wizards gathered. It had been a place of beauty and silent strength, ancient trees lining gardens and paths like quiet guardians. That was all now gone, ruined by Sarumans treachery and raped by Saurons evil.
The army was descending down the hills into the decimated valley like a horde of ants. Legolas stood at its crest a moment, aghast at the extent of the destruction, before the Orc guarding him smacked him hard across the back of his head and shoved him forward. Still, time enough had passed for the Elf to note the solitary figure dressed in the purest of whites atop the great needle of a tower. Massive waves of abominable power radiated from the pinnacle.
Legolas shuddered as he felt the gaze of the ever-watchful Eye burn into his heart.
Saruman had found him.
Night had descended upon Lórien. The shadows had come with their quiet serenity, laying a blanket upon the forest. Above the stars twinkled innocently, as though they were somehow oblivious to troubles elsewhere. The denizens of Lórien as well slumbered, ignorant of danger and of threat. This night to them was like none other, and they slept in perpetual bliss, among the trees and flowers and sweet winds of their home where evil could not penetrate. The cry of distant agony fell on deaf ears. All save one.
Galadriel, the Lady of the Golden Wood, could not find peace. Sleep would not come to her this night, for the warning in her heart chased away serenity. Throughout much of the day she had sensed this unsettling tiding, but it had remained intangible and incomprehensible, irking her yet availing her with no answers. Now, as Lórien slept, she pondered. Many times before she had felt foul premonitions, for the Eye of Sauron had seen much throughout Middle Earth, and joined with it by the curse of her own ring, she had witnessed its evil. In the days since passing her trial in the witness of Frodo Baggins the menace of the Eye had released her into harmony. Yet now the veiled threat returned. It was a great, unsettling feeling of dread, unpronounced yet strikingly powerful. During the day it had grown from an incessant needling to a prominent whisper. Now she could no longer cast it aside. She must understand.
Thus on quick feet, while her kingdom peaceably slumbered, she descended the grassy steps to the small alcove. Lórien was still under the canopy of night, the trees silent in their song. Water trickled quietly, and she quickly made her way to the stream. Swiftly, she drew clear water into the silver pitcher. Then she turned and hastily poured the liquid into the silver bowl upon the stone pedestal. As the water tumbled down to fill it, the whispers in her mind grew to a harsh scream, and she dropped the vessel.
The mirror drew her attention, and she looked.
A great fire spread from the base of the bowl and scorched her eyes. As it faded she saw many things. The Fellowship, shattered, lost. Isildurs heir prone in a puddle of his blood. The small creatures screaming. The great keening of a hawk as it soared down over a massive black field of Mordor, and upon this plain the stain of the blood of a thousand Elves. Men, slaughtering her fair kin with wicked weapons, bearing the ancient flags of Minas Tirith. Rivendell overrun with invaders, its denizens fleeing as what remained of its soldiers rallied in a last defense. Mirkwood ablaze, the kingdom of the Silvan Elves scorched, the bodies of those unable to escape burning amongst the trees. Lórien gone, her own captives of the men that ravaged their woods. Then she saw the white city, the great pale tower of Minas Tirith jutting against the fiery skies with vengeful power. It stood stark against the black of the acrid smoke. Orcs racing like insects from Mordor and from Isengard, stampeding to the battlements of men with screams of evil bloodlust. A great horrible shadow spreading from the east.
What is to come.
Sorrow brought tears to her eyes, and she felt the pain of one imprisoned. It was so real, so acute, that her heart ached in misery. Hands bound. Blood. Fear. Anger. There, like a bright light among a sea of wretched shadow, an Elf. She saw his face, saw his eyes, saw through his eyes. A menace approaching, a twisted wisdom dressed in the purest of white.
Guilt brought pain to her heart, and she knew the shame of one corrupted. This was hidden, the last emotions of a noble heart crushed by a vile invasion of evil. The betrayal of the Fellowship. An endless struggle, in which the valorous man was waning. She feared he would submit finally to the will of Sauron. That would seal their fate.
Fear brought shivers to her soul, and she saw the terror of one alone. Walking onward, bearing a burden not meant to be his, fighting a terrible battle without comfort of companionship. The ache of loss. He did not know where to go, or how to get there. Teetering on the edge of exhaustion.
Anger brought tension to her limbs, and she understood the dissonance of one lost. In the woods, tracking. Racing to make sense of the chaos that had become of his control. The others looking to him for strength. Finding none. An exiled king shamed by his brother. She felt his pain, knew his guilt, comprehended his heart. The Ring. The Ring was gone.
They had been strong, bound together by common fate. The Elf, the Dwarf, and the two men, standing shoulder to shoulder as they protected their wards. The great Istar, free from the shadow that now claimed him. The four little ones, their hearts greater than all, for they willingly had accepted a duty that was more deserved of greater creatures. Hardships they had faced together, and grown stronger in trust. Two thousand years prior. The strength of men faltered upon the black rocks of Mount Doom. This then would be their legacy. The future of all Middle Earth, resting upon the shoulders of nine walkers set out from Rivendell. Their courage had become the courage of all.
What was and what had been.
The images raced through her mind. The great horrible shadow took form from black and evil. Sauron. The Eye filled her, burned her, buried her.
And she could look no more.
Galadriel ripped her eyes away with a gasp. The world slammed back down upon her, and for a moment she stood there in denial, shaking. The sense of her body returned to her, the weight of white gown upon her slender form, the feel of the breeze tickling her hair, the sweet aroma of Lórien, the grass beneath her toes. The stars winked from above, but no longer would they watch in ignorance. She stood, trembling, breathing heavily in fear. Finally she gained the courage to turn back to mirror.
The water was now as it once had been, clear and cool, serene. She watched numbly as it reflected only the limbs stretching above and the light of the celestial bodies. Galadriel closed her eyes, but that could not stop the terrifying scenes from replaying sadistically. This nightmare now would forever torment her! She must not allow it to come to pass!
Now she ran, her long hair and gown whipping behind her. Her mind was racing to make sense of what she had witnessed, her feet directing her of their own instinct. Quickly she returned to her room.
She was not surprised to see Celeborn had already risen, obviously perceiving her distress. What has happened? he asked quietly, his ancient eyes clear and concerned.
Quickly, Galadriel said, her voice soft but urgent, summon Haldir and our fastest riders!
Celeborn regarded her only momentarily before stepping quickly from the room to carry out her requests. His trust of her intuition was absolute. Mindlessly she waited. What did this mean? The one from Gondor had betrayed his allies obviously, but that alone could not account for such suffering! The One Ring had been hidden from her gaze. She could not discern whether it was in the hands of evil. The possibility in and of itself was disconcerting. Oh, what foul twist of events had led the Fellowship to this sad state!
She knew not the time it took for her kinsmen to arrive. Her feet had carried her to an antechamber. Celeborn returned to her side, his knowing face firm. Through their bond only did she know his confusion and he her fear.
Haldir knelt before them both. My Lady and Lord, he said, a bit winded, more than likely from excitement than his sudden wakening. Beside him were two other archers of Lórien, slender young elves named Orophin and Rúmil, the latter brother to Haldir. Both knelt as well, silent and perhaps a bit unnerved.
Galadriel lowered her eyes. Black times are to come to us, she declared quietly and carefully, if in these tasks I am to give to you each you are not successful. The young Elves before her did not waver with the foreboding of which she spoke. They were the best of Lórien, the strongest fighters, the keenest archers, the bravest and most loyal. She was confident that if failure fell to them, it would not be of their making. Orophin, you must ride hard to Rivendell. Inform Lord Elrond that the deceit of men is nigh.
Orophins eyes narrowed as though in confusion. Men? Men of Rohan? Of Gondor? he asked incredulously.
Galadriel looked at him sharply. I know not. I fear both. Bear this message: he must send warriors, as many as he can spare, to guard his borders. Speak of this to no one but him.
The young blonde Elf nodded and bowed. So you will it, my Lady, it shall be.
She turned to Rúmil. You travel to the Kingdom of Mirkwood. To King Thranduil speak the same warning. However, where Rivendells army dwindles, Mirkwoods still supports many. Tell him the battle which will decide the course of Middle Earth shall be fought in the land of Men, and his forces shall be needed. Galadriel hesitated, and the horrors of what they witnessed distressed her anew. He may already be well aware of this, but I cannot in good conscience keep such a tiding from him if not. His youngest has been taken by the enemy.
Rúmil glanced at his brother. The offspring of the House of Thranduil not often graced the woods of Lórien, but only recently had they become acquainted with Legolas when the Fellowship of the Ring had rested in their home in the wake of losing Gandalf the Grey. To think that an Elf of such breeding had fallen into the hands of evil for the sake of Men and Dwarves obviously disgusted them, but they wisely chose not to speak. The younger Elf turned back to his Lady. I understand. I will not fail.
Galadriel nodded solemnly. Then go. I place my trust upon you.
They quickly departed. The sounds of quick paces and shouted orders grew distant. Galadriel closed her eyes again to ward away the nightmare, struggling to compose herself. Haldir, to you I give the most important task, for oft you have shown yourself most worthy of such a duty.
The archer bowed his head respectfully, but his brown eyes were bright with pride and valor. Then I will not rest until I see it done. Tell me, My Lady, how might I serve the will of the Golden Wood?
You are to seek out the Fellowship. The son of Denethor has been turned to shadow by the One Ring, and because of it the greed of men once again holds the fate of Middle Earth in the balance. Once you find Aragorn, son of Arathorn, who we call Hope, you must ensure that he travels to Minas Tirith and secures the allegiance of the kingdoms of men before evil can lay its vile grasp. Do you understand?
Haldir lifted his head and met her gaze. Yes, he spoke simply.
You cannot fail. You know neither fear nor exhaustion. You must do this, and upon convincing him as such, you must aid him in any way you can. I expect no less of you, Haldir of the Golden Wood.
The Elf nodded curtly. I take my leave then, My Lady, he declared.
Galadriel closed her eyes again then, listening as the young warrior departed. A great battle was coming. A great time of fear. Though she tried, she could not run from the warning now. It would beat in her heart until the threat was defeated.
Celeborn had sensed her turmoil. He said quietly, We will do all we can.
She hoped it would be enough.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.